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Geoff White awarded HonFISTD

As Tony Pritchard so aptly put it – Geoff White is the perfect candidate to be recognized by ISTD for his selfless contribution to British graphic design – and British graphic design education.

Geoff was born in 1928 and is part of a generation of post-war British Modernist designers. He studied at the Central School under Victor Pasmore, Herbert Spencer and Anthony Froshaug alongside Peter Wildbur, Ken Briggs and Colin Forbes. Geoff was profiled in the journal Octavo and the book ‘Drip Dry Shirts’ by Lucienne Roberts. 

He is perhaps most noted for his time as an influential year one tutor at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design.

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At London College of Communication (LCC) Geoff has taught on the Design for Visual Communication courses bringing his unique take on visual language and typography to many students. These days Geoff makes an annual visit to the course to share his impressive collection of posters, many of which he designed himself. They are exemplars of the use of colour, space and typography.

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Even now, in his 89th year, Geoff continues to explore new visual languages to extend the possibilities within his work – and delights in informing and inspiring new generations of designers.

We’d like this ISTD blog to be your story of working with or being taught by Geof White. Please leave your comments as a testimony to his influence and dedication to typography.

Comments

I had the pleasure of teaching typography with Geoff in 2008, 2009 and 2010 at Ravensbourne. He was tireless! and made the cut and paste exercises we were delivering so worthwhile. We still teach our first years in this way.

Posted by Louise Prideaux on 13th July 2017 at 08:43am

Although I have taught alongside Geoff on the Design for Visual Communication course, I still felt very much the student learning from Geoff. He has a way of hypothesising an idea eg classifying typographic layouts that is unusual. There is a Japanese term called 'sensei' the deeper meaning of this word is 'the one who went before' and this is how I think of Geoff. He often refers to himself humbly as a 'foot soldier' – this sense of modesty is a good reminder of what a true role model can be.

Posted by Tony Pritchard on 13th July 2017 at 08:46am

In all my encounters with Geoff at LCC I have been impressed by the extent of his knowledge, skill, experience and expertise, as well as his willingness to share that with students, teachers and practitioners alike. We're very fortunate to have the involvement of such an inspirational person on the course.

Posted by Henrietta Ross on 13th July 2017 at 08:59am

I can only reiterate Tony's comments about Geoff. He taught also on the old HND Typographic Course in which I was privileged to be the Course Leader. He was an inspiration to the students and it is amazing that in his 89th year he still inspires both colleagues and students. A remarkable man, both politically and artistically.

Posted by David Dabner on 13th July 2017 at 10:04am

Compared to Geoff’s influence on British design and design education, I was but a brief brushstroke. I benefited from Geoff’s insightful mentoring when I was a tutor at Ravensbourne in 1979 and I continue to treasure our friendship from ”across the pond” in California. Geoff's stellar reputation speaks of the sense of honor he embodies, as do the honors bestowed upon him, including this prestigious Honorary Fellowship of ISTD. From the moment Geoff signed Ken Garland’s First Things First manifesto on ethical design in 1964 to his most recent lecture on his poster collection, Geoff has shown us what it means to take responsibility for the power and impact of design. We don’t know the names of many of the soft-spoken, selfless ones who continue to shape the design profession—and perhaps more importantly its effect on our world today. But thankfully, we do know the influential work of Geoff White!

Posted by Lauralee Alben on 7th November 2017 at 06:28pm

I would like to add my appreciation of Geoff White's work with myself and my fellow students during my time at Ravensbourne from 1970-1973 I think I was the first student from Norther Ireland at that time. As everyone has said he was very humble and unassuming yet you were very aware of the fact that you could learn an immense amount from him. The very practical typographical knowledge I gleaned from Geoff helped me to enter a career in advertising with London Typographical Designers along with another ex Ravensboure designer Jack Fernside. Leading on to me becoming an educator myself as a teacher of art and design and eventually as Senior Course Tutor in Graphic Design and Product Design in Magee College in Londonderry.I owe Geoff and his colleagues Patrick Wallis Burke, John Laing, Dudley Hollingsworth and many others a debt of gratitude for giving me the desire to promote creative typographic solutions to design problems and to teach others how to solve them Thanks Geoff. Gerry Donnelly

Posted by Gerry Donnelly on 6th November 2017 at 08:19pm

Geoff White, a name that I will never forget! I graduated in Ravensbourne 1974, after 40 odd years we still talk about this humble nice old guy whenever we have our reunion in which he did in fact joined us a few year ago at his late 80s! I remember as a first year student he always come behind me with his pencil telling me how my layout related typography. He was such a inspirational mentor to me. As Clive said-Geoff, we salute you and hope we will meet again!

Posted by Fritz Wong on 6th October 2017 at 02:49pm

I studied at Ravensbourne from 75-78 when Geoff and Mike Burke were on staff with visits from Peter Wildbur and Ian McLaren. Of course at the time we had no idea how lucky we are to have them on tap, but the really solid grounding in typography and the passion for strong ideas with an eye for detail have undoubtedly informed my work and approach since then. Geoff was always quietly spoken and very considered, but somehow you always knew if he thought you were on the right track. I got a job with Keith Murgatroyd after leaving and I'm sure that was due to the quality of teaching from Geoff and the other staff. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition.

Posted by Steve Hammond on 13th July 2017 at 05:01pm

I graduated Ravensbourne in 1995. Geoff changed the way I thought about design and I use the skills he taught me daily, to this day - his teaching approach built a foundation for design in life. Looking back on my education, he was one of the teachers who was truly inspirational and made a real mark.

Posted by James Coulson on 13th July 2017 at 07:41pm

I first met Geoff as a student in the first year at Ravensbourne in 1986, he was always so patient, helpful and inspiring to students. He gave me the the confidence and belief that I could use typography as a main component in my graphic design. As I progressed through the 3 years I began to consider him more as a friend and mentor and after I graduated from the RCA I was privileged to work with him in the teaching team at Ravensbourne. As a new lecturer he helped me a lot, giving me advice and suggestions, giving me confidence, always showing me new books on typography and directing me to the work of new designers, he often lent me slides and notes on the history of typography so I could lecture at other Universities too. He continued to do free-lance design while he was teaching at Ravensbourne, he probably still does even at 89, but what was amazing to me is that he would often seek advice from other lecturers, students and myself as to which was the best version of some new design he was working on, incredible that he was so humble and I remember that it made me realise it doesn’t matter who we are or how experienced we are, we are all of us always learning, we never stop. What is so great about Geoff, and we all know this, is that he enjoys all aspects of life, going out and having fun and socialising is as important as keeping an eye on the latest graphic design, and he’s as passionate about music, architecture and painting as he is about typography. A gentleman and an inspiration.

Posted by Andy Lawrence on 14th July 2017 at 03:07am

I've known dear old Geoff for a very, very, long time. He impressed me during the 1960s when I returned from my first sojourn in Germany. His inventive work at the time with Dewar Mills Associates provided a ray of sunlight in a bleak old world, and he has remained so constantly since then.

Posted by Ian McLaren on 14th July 2017 at 10:34am

During my time at Ravensbourne in the early 90s, Geoff was the tutor who stood out from them all. With his intelligent approach and passion in teaching typography, he truly built the fundamentals in my career which I still use now. Paul Giltrap, Creative Diretor. Havas

Posted by Paul Giltrap on 14th July 2017 at 10:52am

Geoff was my teacher at Ravensbourne between 1992–96. His work is unique and as a person he inspired me with his curiosity, his silence and humour. Thanks and keep on.

Posted by Tanja Lemke-Mahdavi on 14th July 2017 at 02:31pm

hi geoff perhaps you read this: thanks a lot. i really liked your teaching and projects and learned a lot – although i was the first student to do them a mac. :-) anyway, meanwhile i use the copy and paste projects for our interns. regards from cologne. jens, tinkerbelle advertising, berlin

Posted by jens auhage on 16th July 2017 at 11:26pm

Geoff came to Farnham and taught with Mike Ryan on our 1st year type unit, 'Message & Meaning'. It was a privilege having him with us on the teaching team - he deserves the accolade. Well done Geoff (from down under).

Posted by Philip Ely on 17th July 2017 at 08:02am

It was a real pleasure to have Geoff teach me at Uni (class of 1995). I learnt so much from him and his approach to typography still resonates with me today. Thank you Geoff, you really did us proud at Ravensbourne. This is a truly well deserved honour and I wish you all the best keep being awesome!

Posted by nicky gotobed on 19th July 2017 at 12:54pm

Geoff is an unsung hero. There is a good reason for that. He never looked for appreciation, he was not interested in the cult of personality and he didn't want to become a typo rock n roller like others (you know who you are). Geoff just does his thing, and he does it beautifully. He is a craftsman who's enthusiasm is infectious. His strategically playful approach was and still is a great inspiration to me. I consider it an honour to say that I was among the many students who had the privilege. Congratulations Geoff!!!

Posted by Andrew Monk on 20th July 2017 at 04:43pm

Geoff's basic typography exercises were without doubt the most important part of my design education. 30 years later, they still provide the cornerstone of my teaching, delivering fundamental truths which continue to outlive transitions of technology. We have a great responsibility to ensure that this knowledge, handed to me by Geoff White, is carefully passed on to the designers of the future.

Posted by Rupert Bassett on 2nd August 2017 at 10:11am

I first met Geoff when I started teaching at Ravensbourne in 1993, he is one of those people who make design and design education a joy. He is very thoughtful with a keen eye for detail and always encouraging to his students and staff. A well deserved award for the gentle man of typographic design.

Posted by Peter Smith on 2nd August 2017 at 11:38am

I was privileged to have Geoff as a friend and mentor when I started teaching typography at Ravensbourne in 1985. His intellectual curiosity, keen eye, and sophisticated compositional sense, combined with a humble and gentle manner, were an inspiration to me then and continue to be now. I was very happy to be able to commission a thoughtful article by Colin Maughan on Geoff’s life and work for the second issue of Octavo, giving his little-known work and ethos the recognition it deserved. Teachers carry the torch and pass it on, and Geoff has carried it further and higher than most. Whenever I hear anyone in a design college say “in the real world”, I have to correct them and say “what you mean is the commercial world. This is the real world, the real world of education”. This real world of education is what Geoff has dedicated himself to, a selfless giving with far-reaching consequences. Beyond Ravensbourne, I have fond memories of many good discussions with Geoff on life, art, and design in the French House and the Coach & Horses. Geoff, I raise a glass to your health and to congratulate you on this well-deserved honour. Best wishes from California, and see you soon when Octavo Redux is published…

Posted by Simon Johnston on 14th August 2017 at 11:35pm

Geoff - or 'Ziggy' (Stardust) as he was known to many of us who graduated in '74. He was a passionate disco dancer who, more than just a 'teacher', befriended us all. Always a little stubby pencil behind his ear and eager to assist whenever we pursued an idea down a blind alley, he would give us his thoughts on how graphic art imitated the fine arts and was an excellent companion in the pub. Ever an eye for the bargain - 'what do you think of this coat - only £45 in M&S' and still full of style. When I related that I was working at the old COI he told me that he too had worked there during the early 60s in Hercules Road in the then typo department, recounting stories of his time there including those surrounding his 'fascist' boss! Readers can imagine the friction there must have been. So, apologies for the ramble - I and the rest of my colleagues in the class of '74 raise a glass to you - Geoff - we salute you! Here's to your 90th.

Posted by Clive Rodgers on 1st October 2017 at 11:18am

Geoff White was inspiring and hands on. A teacher whose enthusiasm was infectious. He taught me when I was doing my Ba hons Graphic Design at Ravensbourne. We knew then how lucky we were to have Geoff's guidance and influence on our studies and work. Thank you Geoff!

Posted by Selen Tosun Stone on 23rd November 2018 at 04:36pm

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